Holding Onto Her

By: Christine Fishel

It’s been five yeas since Janet lost her mom. She remembers the date each year, just as she remembers her mom’s birthday each year. These are the days when grief hits harder.

I read a beautiful novel last week about life from the point of view of a fifty-something autistic man. Best Boy by Eli Gottlieb is the story of Todd, who was raised by a loving, nurturing mother whose unwavering and positive care allowed him to find peace in his daily life even as he was abused by his father and brother. His mother’s influence stayed with him long past her lifetime. Even though she never appears in the novel, she lives on as a caring figure through her son’s memories.

There’s a beautiful moment in the novel when Todd visits his childhood home and finds that a boarded-up crawl space is filled with items left behind by his family. He immediately recognizes a small purse his mother carried and opens it.

“…suddenly I had an idea and stuck my nose quickly into the purse as far as it would go. I took a deep breath while the faint rose powder smell of my Momma came unmistakably into my head and the whole room brightened for a second and then continued to brighten further with the warm, perfect light of the sun.

…My mother had been holding her breath inside that little bag for forty years. She had left it behind hoping I’d find it and now I had it and her inside of me.”

What a beautiful image. As I read it again now, I remember my friend Laura talking about how her mother carried tissues in her shirt sleeves, and how she found a sweater her mother wore that still held a tissue in the front pocket and carried her mother’s scent. Another friend recommended putting the sweater inside a Ziploc bag so the smell would stay locked in–Laura could open it for comfort anytime she felt the need.

Those who grieve hold onto these pieces of the ones they loved and lost, and it brings some comfort. But grief is an unending journey—in this world, anyway. The real peace comes in the eternal world. Those who grieve can know that there will be a day when there is no grief, for there is no death. “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself with be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” Revelation 21:4-5

I pray that Janet, Laura, and so many others I know can find a bit of comfort in knowing that there will be a day when the old order of things has passed away, a day when there will be no more mourning.

4 replies on “Holding Onto Her”

Oh, Chris! That memory of my mom and her tissues warmed my heart! You’re so sweet for remembering it and bringing it back to me. Love you!

Laura, our weeks together in the classroom will forever be a part of my sweet memories. Your adoration for your mother and your open grief for her gave me an image of the kind of mother I want to be for my children. Thank you for that!

I still have some of my mom’s sweaters in a storage container (with a lid). Even after 7 years I can still smell her scent on them. I also have a bottle of my mom’s favorite perfume. It’s amazing how a scent can bring so much comfort.

Thank you for your comment. I’m glad you wrote about how long the scent of your mother can last when carefully treasured away. The gift of her can be reopened anytime you need her comfort. What a beautiful image.

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